Farmers in England can expect to receive a Soil Protection Review form in the next few days, which they need to complete to meet cross-compliance requirements.
The form is being sent by the Rural Payments Agency to all Single Payment Scheme applicants.
The idea is that the review should be completed by 1 September, 2006, and implemented from 1 January, 2007.
Simon Draper, an adviser with the DEFRA-funded cross-compliance advice programme, urged farmers not to be put off by the size of the form.
“Although farmers need to follow a number of steps to complete the review, I suspect it will be a lot more straightforward to complete than some think.
Because of the way it is set out, it looks like it is long.
But most of it won’t apply and it is all tick boxes.”
Mr Draper said the idea of the form is to enable farmers to identify and address soil management problems at a whole farm level.
There are three main parts to it – identifying soil issues, deciding on actions to manage and protect soils, and reviewing success.
“Farmers can start preparing for the SPR by reading the Cross-Compliance Guidance for Soil Management booklet,” said Mr Draper.
“But on a more practical level, they can start to determine the soil types on the farm and identify any soil problems that may exist.
They can then work out how to avoid them.
“For example, good drainage extends the season for field operations and grazing, while if you have to travel on or work wet soils, reducing the load with low ground pressure set-ups, or with tyre pressures at the lowest pressure compatible with load and tyre type, can help.”
Mr Draper stressed that the form is different from the Soil Management Plan required under the Environmental Stewardship Scheme.
But farmers who have completed the more detailed SMP should find it easier to complete the review form, he said.